Beginner's Guide To Living A Zero Waste Lifestyle

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

I have noticed a trend growing on social media that is here to stay. If you have not heard of Lauren Singer, you should go to Youtube right now and look up the name. I'm not sure if Lauren started the zero waste lifestyle, but she definitely made it famous. The zero waste lifestyle means getting rid of all the disposable items and using other alternatives that can either be recycled or reused in your household.

In my opinion, we should all follow this lifestyle. Not only does this keep your house cleaner (hello, no trash or need for bins in the house) but it significantly reduces our carbon footprint. While I am nowhere near a perfect 'no trash' lifestyle, I do think it has made me more aware of what I purchase and use in my everyday life. If you are interested in starting this journey or just want to be more aware of what you bring into your house, I have put together a list for beginners.

These little steps are simple to incorporate into your life and might make you switch up some bad habits. Again, I'm not saying you have to completely get rid of all your trash in your life (she has a mason jar containing her garbage from the past five years) but to be more conscious of what you are throwing out.

Switch Out Plastic Bags
Honestly, we have no reason to use plastic bags anymore. Some states are now requiring a fee to use a plastic bag in any given store which I think is fantastic. Even if you don't believe in climate change we should all understand the repercussions of plastic bags. They take over 1000 years to decompose which causes our landfills to pile up uncontrollably.

These little bags that we don't think about also break down in our soils and release toxic chemicals. Not only is this bad for the environment but it kills off any animal that digests it. It clogs our sewage system and kills land and sea creatures (you can easily watch videos of animals with hundreds of bags in their digestive system). As you can read, they are definitely an item that needs to be eliminated.

To switch it up you can easily purchase a few reusable bags from almost any grocery store. Various places (like banks, career events, etc.) actually give these little bags away with their logo. Most of mine I have received for free while others were purchased for mere cents. These bags can hold a lot more than a plastic bag, are incredibly durable, and easy to carry. How often do you go grocery shopping? I typically have a big grocery haul once a week and might purchase small items when those supplies dwindle.

Before these bags, it would take about 6-12 bags to carry all of my groceries. I would make several trips from my car to the house (which we all know is a hassle) and it was a gamble if a heavier one would break or not. Now I buy the same amount of food with only 3 large bags and can quickly take these all into the house with one trip. To make sure you always have one for random purchases make sure to keep a couple in your car, in the house, and maybe even fold one up in your purse.

Tip: you can also find small reusable bags for any of your vegetable/produce items.

Stop The Straw Mayhem
Starbucks recently came out saying they would stop using straws for their drinks and they are just one of several places doing this. There are even some countries that are trying to ban them entirely. I am a straw lover, meaning I have sensitive teeth and usually need that buffer for the ice. The problem is the fact that straws take forever to decompose and wind up in our waters killing wildlife. They shouldn't be in jeopardy for our benefit. Monitoring when we get straws will make it so much easier to say no. Politely ask your server to skip the straw or bring your own cup to coffee shops when ordering. You will not look silly (I promise).

Are you someone who loves using straws? You can still do so! They make reusable straws that are created out of stainless steel that can last a lifetime. I have even seen ones that easily fold up into a little pouch that you can clip on to your keys for quick access.

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
Most towns have a recycling facility, and it is time we start using them. I am fortunate enough to live in a city that gives you a recycling bin along with a normal one. This makes it convenient to go straight from my house to the trash without having to travel. If you are not fortunate to have this, you can go to this website to find out where your local facility is located.

I tried to get a particular person to start recycling, and her chief complaint was, "So you want me to clean my trash?" How much time do we spend each day on social media? Or sitting in boredom? If you have time to waste, I promise you to have a couple of quick seconds to rinse out a can. For those who don't recycle, look through your trash and see what items could be salvaged. Garbage piles up faster than we think.

Sweden has such strict recycling policies in place that, not only do they have no trash in their landfills, but they are accepting waste from other countries. We can do that too if we just take a few seconds to know about what we are throwing away. Make it a reward system if you find it hard to travel to your local facility. Afterward, give yourself a coffee drink or a snack. This will form a better habit of saving planet Earth.

Produce Is Not Trash
How much food do you throw away in a given week? I know I was throwing away a surprising amount of food when I started this journey. We can't all buy expensive equipment to decompose our food, but we don't have to toss it in the trash. Some people save old food in a tub that stays stored in their freezer. Once a week they take this to their local farmers market who will accept it and use it for fertilizer.

Most all farmers markets do this but we don't all have this convenience in our towns. While we have that in the summer here, we don't have anyplace to go to in the winter. Depending on where you live, you can either make a small DIY compost bin or toss it in your backyard. For me, we have a large enough backyard that we can throw it into a little dirt area for it to naturally decompose or become food for other animals.

If you don't have that luxury, you can quickly and inexpensively make your own compost bin. If you read here, you can find a simple step by step process to create your own. Not only is this a fantastic natural fertilizer for plants but it helps to get all that food out of the house, so you don't attract little critters (like flies). When you toss that produce in a trash bag, it ends up in a landfill to decompose. With all the other materials in the area, it will make it twice as difficult for that little piece of fruit to properly break apart. It requires a small investment, but it is well worth the effort.

These are just some of the several ways you can begin living a zero waste lifestyle. If we all did our part, we would see less trash piling up and more trees filling the land. It only takes some extra effort, awareness of our actions, and a determination to do better. After all, we all want this planet to survive for future generations. Don't let the movie 'Wall-e' become our future. 

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